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Iowa School Breakfast Challenge


Students have trouble learning when they are focused on their empty stomachs rather than classroom activities. These students often lack concentration and struggle with poor academic performance, behavior problems, and health issues. However, of the more than 168,797 students who ate a free or reduced-price lunch, just over one-third also ate breakfast at school, ranking Iowa 49th in the nation. We have an opportunity to reduce student hunger by narrowing this gap.

Many innovative methods of serving breakfast are being implemented across the state that can help address barriers by making breakfast a part of the school day. When schools serve breakfast after the bell during regular school hours, they help address the timing problem because students no longer need to arrive early to school in order to participate in school breakfast.

During the 2012-2013 School Year the Iowa Department of Education partnered with the Midwest Dairy Council to hold an Iowa School Breakfast Challenge.  The challenge encouraged schools to increase their breakfast participation by at least 20%.  The schools with the highest increase, were awarded cash prizes, provided by the Midwest Dairy Council.  Here are the results:

2012-2013 Iowa School Breakfast Challenge Results
% increase based on the number of breakfasts served per child enrolled
  Tier 1
< 350 students
Tier 2
350-899 students
Tier 3
900-3,999 students
Tier 4
4000+ students
Gold: $4,000 East Greene CSD
100% increase
Regis Middle School
114% increase
Shenandoah CSD
28% increase
Des Moines CSD
32% increase
Keys to Success They promote their breakfast program throughout the school, website and on the radio.  They have the reputation for the “best toast in the county!” and really work on building relationships with students and invite and encourage them to eat breakfast with them. They promote breakfast choices by posting signs, making announcements during the lunch hour and including information in parent newsletters.  They also offer special breakfast items that are not normally on the menu including fruit parfaits, whole grain bagels and low fat hot chocolate. They promote the breakfast program through bulletin boards, posters and the school website.  During morning announcements they share what is for breakfast the next day and they are thankful for the front line nutrition staff for the service, communication and understanding they have with the students. They have implemented breakfast in the classroom in twelve elementary schools and three middle schools.  Since the implementation of the program attendance has gone up and tardiness has gone down.
Silver: $2,500 St. Theresa’s
77% increase
St. Francis Xavier, (Dyersville)
55% Increase
Carroll CSD
27% increase
Marshalltown CSD
26% increase
Keys to Success They tailored some of the breakfast items based on feedback received from students. They promote the breakfast program through posters and newsletters to parents They started having three choices available instead of just one or two and one of them is a hot menu item. They have implemented breakfast in the classroom in all of their elementary buildings.


Iowa Breakfast Challenge Webinar Series

  • School Breakfast = School Success - School administrators learn how to help prepare students for success by promoting and supporting School Breakfast Programs. This webinar provides an introduction to the benefits of breakfasts, ideas for increasing participation, and ideas on how to expand current school breakfast programs.
  • Expanding Your Breakfast Program - Many children don’t eat breakfast at home and even if breakfast is offered in the cafeteria, many don’t participate. They may be too busy socializing, or affected by the potential social stigma that the program is meant for low income students. Learn how to capture those breakfast skippers, by Expanding Breakfast outside of the cafeteria! This webinar provides information on Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab ‘n’ Go Breakfast, and Breakfast After First Bell.
  • Overcoming the Challenges of School Breakfast - There may be one or more problems that results in low participation in your School Breakfast Program. This webinar provides solutions to a few common problems, including lack of time, bus schedules, students preference to socialize, lack of administrative support and stigma.



The following resources can help your school increase participation:


Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on November 28, 2015 at 9:30pm.